Data shows that more than 240,000 falls – more than 600 every day – are recorded every year in hospitals and mental health trusts in England and Wales.
Now, a new guide, from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), tells people how to help prevent falls, such as ensuring they tell nurses and doctors if they have a history of falls, using walking sticks, ringing call bells if they want help moving and doing simple leg exercises before getting up.
The guide, which is being sent to every NHS trust in England and Wales and can be downloaded online, also tells hospitals what to do to prevent falls, including ensuring call bells are within reach, creating care plans for people with dementia and keeping bedsides free from clutter.
A report from the RCP last year found that thousands of patients in hospitals cannot reach call bells or walking aids, putting them at serious risk of falls.
It said that, while hospitals had policies in place for dealing with falls, there was “no association” between them and the care patients received on wards.
Almost one-fifth of patients were unable to reach their call bell and almost one-third of patients who were observed could not safely get to their walking aid if they needed one.
A fifth of falls are from bed and yet only half of NHS trusts had carried out a recent bed rail audit.
While almost all patients had their level of mobility recorded, just 16% of patients had their lying and standing blood pressure levels noted.
Some patients may suffer from a drop in blood pressure on standing which increases their risk of falling.
Dr Shelagh O”Riordan, clinical lead for the national audit of inpatient falls, said of the new guide: “When a patient falls in hospital, particularly an older patient, it can cause anxiety and distress for them and their families, even if the fall does not result in serious injury.
“The RCP falls prevention guide informs patients and their families about the need to be “falls aware”. It encourages them to be alert to risks and how these risks can be minimised. It also covers measures that hospital staff should take to reduce the risk of patient falls.
“We hope the guide will give patients and their families the confidence to speak to doctors and nurses about any concerns they might have and encourage them to be pro-active in helping prevent people falling and hurting themselves while they are being treated in hospital.“
Data from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy suggests that better community services could prevent 160,000 serious falls each year and reduce hospital admissions.
Catherine Pope, chair of council for the organisation, said: “We welcome the focus on inpatient falls as far too many of these are preventable and the consequences can be so traumatic.
“Beyond the human impact, there is also the effect these falls have on the system, leaving people in hospital longer than they originally needed to be, and often with greater needs that will continue once they have been discharged.
“Physiotherapists play a crucial role in preventing falls, whether on the ward or in the community, and ease the pressure on hospitals.”